|"Remember, that who ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a
city," said his wife. She was a Christian Scientist. Her Bible, her copy of Science
and Health and her Quarterly were on the table beside her bed in the darkened room.
Her husband did not answer. He was sitting on his
bed now, cleaning a shotgun. He pushed the magazine full of the yellow heavy shells and
pumped them out again. They were all scattered on the bed. ...
His wife was silent. The doctor wiped his
gun carefully with a rag. He pushed the shells back against the spring of the magazine. He
sat with the gun on his knees. He was very fond of it. Then he heard his wife´s voice
from the darkened room.
"Dear, I don´t think, I really
don´t think that anyone would do a thing like that."
from: The Doctor and the Doctor´s Wife
|The Doctor and the
Doctor´s Wife by Ernest Hemingway
|Ernest Hemingways short
stories are generally regarded as the best ones ever written as they lack the amount of
symbols included in other short stories but possess the quality that human behaviour is
presented purely and stripped to its skeleton. Hemingway always uses the so-called iceberg
principle in his stories meaning that only a small part of the true nature of the story is
apparent at first.
The short story "The
doctor and the doctors wife" can be structured into three different parts: the
doctor´s argument with the Indians, the experience with his wife and in the end the
experience with Nick.
This short story begins with the father of Nick Adams,
Hemingways actual hero but whom the narrator just mentions in the end, who sends
three Indians to cut up logs. He faces very physical and masculine workers, who carry axes
and saws. It also becomes clear that they seem to be prepared for the upcoming work.
Before they reach the beach Dick Boulton, the half-breed, turns and shuts the gate.
During the work an argument between Dick and the doctor arises
because Dick says that the logs are stolen whilst the doctor prefers to call it driftwood
which has been washed up after being lost by a steamer. Although it is obvious that the
logs belong to a company as its name is engraved on the wood Nicks father gets so
nervous and upset about Dicks accusation that he finally threatens him to knock his
eye teeth down his throat. He can probably rationalize the theft himself, but does not
want it to be stated by Dick.
"The doctor was very uncomfortable" when it turned out
that the logs belonged to someone else. On the one hand he wants the wood to be cut, but
on the other hand he hesitates as Dick reminds him that it is not actually theirs. In this
passage several weaknesses of the doctor are revealed. The first one is the fact that he
actually does not care if the logs do belong to someone else as long as it is not spoken
out loud. To him it is just crucial that they are referred in a correct way, their true
ownership does not matter. Secondly his physical weakness exposes him also mentally after
he has threatened Dick, who is a big man and likes "to get into fights". The
doctor leaves angrily because he knows that he is not able to seriously fight this man.
Despite the fact that he is very angry about Dick calling the logs his theft, he chews
"his beard on his lower lip", a sign of nervousness and uncertainty, and then
leaves the place. After a while Dick and the other Indians leave as well, but this time
Dick leaves the gate open, which he closed in the beginning, demonstrating that he lost
interest and this eager attitude he had before.
When the doctor returns to his home he finds his wife, who can
apparently guess what has happened despite the fact that he avoids to openly explain what
has caused his rage. His wife is a Christian scientist and reminds him not to lose his
temper by quoting from the Bible. At the same time the doctor starts to clean his shotgun
and put shells in it. That might be a hint that is so controlled by his anger, which urges
him to avenge the lost fight, but once again his wife manages to draw him away
from the immediate desire to kill. He invents another story to satisfy her and to stop her
reminding him of his good manners not to do any harm to anyone (with regard to his work as
a doctor). Nonetheless his wife realizes what her husband is doing and thus tells him that
she " cant really believe that anyone would do a thing of that sort
intentionally." This remark causes him to leave as by which he admits that he has
lost a second time. This time his loss is due to the fact that his wifes religious
beliefs and her strong influence on him force him out. He slams the door announcing
dissatisfaction with himself and anger which he now has to control.
During his argument with Dick he orally
threatened to harm him. Now his wife orally prevents him from doing Dick any physical harm
and therefore displaying the doctors loss on a different level. Nevertheless he
prefers frustration instead of arguing with his wife.
The doctor then obeys his wifes command to look for Nick,
whom he finds reading a book; the doctor closes the book and takes Nick on a hunt for
black squirrels. He or masculinity is controlled by femininity and tries to escape into a
balanced world in which women do not disturb the environment: hunting.
In this short story open things are confronted by closed things.
At the end of the first part Dick leaves the back gate open, thus giving a sign of his
dismissal of the doctor. Another Indian, Billy Tabeshaw, who does not say a word, closes
it. The doctor loses against many open things: Dicks mouth, his wifes bible,
the open gate and tries to escape several times. When he finds Nick reading a book, also
something open, he fights it off by closing it himself.
©Leistungskurs13/2000-2002 Gymnasium Steglitz